It’s a new day – it’s a new world (something like this says Viola in Shakespeare in love and I flatter myself that I feel quite as awakened…)
As you might remember, I found myself in sunny and beautiful Portugal last Sunday, eagerly awaiting 6pm, when a car would be sent to pick me up and drive me to Leon. Having worked up a respectable tan over the last beach days, I spent the afternoon fretting over my choice of dress. Naturally, I had brought some of my favourite frocks, but away from glamorous (sometimes slightly uptight) London they somehow didn’t seem to work for me.
In the end, I chose a simple white cotton shift dress with cute little lace sleeves. It would show of my tan nicely. On Saturday, I had let a handsome Latino convince me to buy some espadrille wedges (to be honest, the shoes were nice but not essential, I had simply not been able to resist his charming broken English and admiring looks… silly girl that I am!), which would do just fine. Whilst I ran myself a hot bath, I tried to imagine the look on Leon’s face. Would he like what he saw?
Unbidden, Blake’s face swam in front of my eyes. Kind, loving eyes, so full of fondness and laughter… Oh Blake. My dear, dear friend. What would I give for a guy who loved me so sincerely, who adored me so devotedly? But I knew it was too late. I had been blinded by my attraction for bad boys for the best part of my (sometimes rather disastrous) dating life and now I must pay the price.
Against my better judgment, I started to compare Blake and Leon. I knew no good could come out of crying over spilled milk. And Leon was a completely different league. Exciting, oh yes and intriguingly handsome. My mysterious Spanish lover still fuelled an intense and – seemingly – insatiable curiosity.
Being with him… made me feel so… so deliciously sexy and full of energy, I mused whilst I soaked in the hot bath. When Leon turned his dark gaze towards me, his eyes caressing my face, my neck, my entire body, I felt the quivering anxiety of an actress about to enter the stage for the first time. It was the carefully dosed suspense, the ultimate rush of adrenaline that was killing me when I was with (or rather waiting for) Leon.
With Blake, it was a completely different matter – always had been. Blake had been taken with me from the very first moment his eleven year old, pudgy and clumsy, self had set eyes on me. Always rather larger than the rest of the boys and possessing little natural grace, he had been painfully self-conscious throughout his adolescence and far into his Oxford years. Blake wasn’t ungainly, but he had never acquired the easy elegance and unconcerned handsomeness of his more attractive peers.
Shy to the point of awkwardness, Blake had never been a ladies’ man. All the same, he extended a sincere and unaffected kindness to people that endeared him to most women, albeit in quite a platonic fashion. I had never considered him to be boyfriend or even husband material and he had never given me the fear of losing him. As solid and steady as a tree, Blake had been there, never wavering, never failing.
Thinking about Leon again, I tried to merge the two men together in my mind. Heady desire and butterflies in my stomach on the one, reliability, quiet confidence and trust on the other side.
Oh dear. I knew what attracted me. Had I not, time and again, chosen the first over the second? And had it not always somehow ended in heartache and tears?
The sands were running out, it was high time to get dressed and meet Leon. And yet… something made me halt. Much as I had longed for this evening, I didn’t feel like going now. Again, I tried to imagine the look on Leon’s face when he saw me, tried to convince myself that I would see admiration and fondness, maybe even… love.
The image wouldn’t come. I just didn’t believe in it.
As I realised that Leon would never regard me with the affection and esteem I needed and deserved, I suddenly knew that I would be going nowhere. I smiled wistfully as I stowed away the lingerie, the jewels, the heels. No, tonight I wouldn’t land in some irresistible bad boy’s arms. Not tonight – not ever again!
I left a note with the concierge – one word on a crème-coloured card “Good-bye” and slowly walked down to the beach.
My week passed pretty uneventful. Once returned from Portugal, I had plunged into work. At times, I was thinking about what would have happened had I actually gone to see Leon. But mostly, I kept busy and forced myself to look ahead. My bad-boy-days, I firmly told myself, were finally over.
Have you ever gone off something and not known what to replace it with? It leaves a gaping hole and can make life very uncomfortable for the time being. What is more, people are usually slow to cotton on and even your closest friends, having your best interests at heart, will – unintentionally – try to keep you from changing.
When I had returned from my latest (and frankly catastrophic) dating adventure – even for my standards it is pretty awful to fly to a different country and then chicken out at the 11th hour – my well-meaning friends tried to put some date or other my way. What they didn’t realise until I started to get upset was that I didn’t really see the most recent developments as a failure. On the contrary, I felt immensely relieved.
Relieved but also confused. Could I be growing up?